After the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, the apostles brought their number back to twelve by choosing Matthias to replace him. He was chosen by lot from amongst the disciples. The author of the Acts of the Apostles sees apostleship differently from Paul’s interpretation of the role and seems to reflect the understanding of the gospel of Luke. The number had to be restored so that they might ‘sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel’. It was conditional that they had to have been with Jesus during his earthly ministry and witnesses to the resurrection. The point of being chosen by lot, rather than by some democratic method, indicated the election or choosing by God, rather than by mortals.
Collect for Matthias the Apostle
who in the place of the traitor Judas
chose your faithful servant Matthias
to be of the number of the Twelve:
preserve your Church from false apostles
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers,
keep us steadfast in your truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may rest upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads an uncorrupt life
and does the thing that is right;
Who speaks the truth from the heart
and bears no deceit on the tongue;
Who does no evil to a friend
and pours no scorn on a neighbour;
In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,
but who honours those who fear the Lord.
Whoever has sworn to a neighbour
and never goes back on that word;
Who does not lend money in hope of gain,
nor takes a bribe against the innocent;
Whoever does these things
shall never fall.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus – for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’
(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
‘For it is written in the book of Psalms,
“Let his homestead become desolate,
and let there be no one to live in it”; and
“Let another take his position of overseer.”
‘So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples gathered to select someone who might take the place of Judas Iscariot in the company of the apostles. It was stipulated that such a person should have been one who had accompanied them throughout the whole of Jesus’ ministry, from his baptism by John in the river Jordan to the moment of his being taken up into heaven. We do not know how many might have been eligible according to this criterion, but we do know that the choice was eventually boiled down to one of just two men: Joseph, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then, following prayer and the casting of lots, Matthias was finally selected as the chosen one.
I wonder how Joseph, also known as Justus, felt? So near and yet so far? Did he feel bitter or did he accept the situation with resignation? Did he feel like Abraham Lincoln who, in 1858, lost a seat in the legislature on a technicality and is reported as having said: Like a boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh?
We have all known times when we have felt rejected. We have all had times when our absolute certainty about ourselves has not been endorsed by others. In such times we have probably known feelings of rejection and resentment, times of feeling misunderstood and undervalued. In such times we will have struggled with the prayer offered by the apostles before the casting of lots: Lord, you know everyone’s heart.
In this short prayer we are being reminded of the omniscience of God. God is all-knowing. God knows what is best in all situations. God wants us to use the difficult times as well as the affirming times to help us along our pilgrimage of faith.
A pilgrimage is a journey that can go smoothly for much of the time but that will, most certainly, have moments that present the traveller with challenges, discouragements and dangers. To trust in our own strength on the pilgrimage we call human life is to reject the guidance and the support that can come from God alone.
Sometimes our lives will feel as though the dice have been loaded heavily against us. Today’s account of the calling of Matthias should help us to see otherwise. Rather than focusing on the chosen one, let us pause and reflect on the ‘loser’. Joseph came so close to being accepted into the company of the apostles but then all was snatched away. Or was it?
So often doors that are slammed in our faces lead us to a path of more profound understanding. Sometimes the doors that slam reveal gifts and talents that had never come into our minds before. The important lesson for us to learn is that the Lord does know everyone’s heart. God really does know what is best for us, and how we might best live out our lives of apostleship.
Let us pray that we might set aside our pride and trust in God’s wisdom, a wisdom that will lead us along paths of joyous discipleship and, ultimately, into God’s nearer presence for ever.
Prayers of Intercession
Encouraged by our fellowship with all the saints, let us make our prayers to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, your Son called men and women to leave the past behind them and to follow him as his disciples in the way of the cross. Look with mercy upon those whom he calls today, marks with the cross and makes his disciples within the Church.
Your Son told his disciples not to be afraid and at Easter breathed on them his gift of peace. Look with mercy upon the world into which he sent them out, and give it that peace for which it longs.
Your Son formed around him a company who were no longer servants but friends, and he called all those who obeyed him his brother and sister and mother. Look with mercy upon our families and our friends and upon the communities in which we share.
Your Son sent out disciples to preach and heal the sick. Look with mercy on all those who yearn to hear the good news of salvation, and renew among your people the gifts of healing.
Your Son promised to those who followed him that they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel and would share the banquet of the kingdom. According to your promise, look with mercy on those who have walked with Christ in this life and now have passed through death.
grant that your Church
may faithfully hold and make known
the faith that has come to us through the apostles,
that with them and all your saints
we may inherit the glories of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for the week
Grant that your Church, O God,
here and in every place,
may offer a living worship to you in your glory,
and a living witness to the world in its need;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.
James Edmeston (1791–1867)